She knew she’d been able to enjoy those things because she’d been with Neo. Not only did his presence give her the courage to try new things, but he adroitly ran interference between her and others. And he never took her anywhere overly crowded, or that made her get that sick feeling she might not be able to get out.
He was so careful of her and with her. She felt cherished.
“I, too, would enjoy this.” But he said it with his arms wrapped firmly around her and she didn’t take that to mean he was getting sick of eating in with her.
“Did you have someone in mind?”
She laughed and traced a shape over his chest, only realizing it was a heart when she finished. He didn’t seem to notice. “Of course. You never offer a suggestion without a full plan behind it.”
“Her name is Lark Corazon and she has had marked success treating agoraphobia and other phobias.”
“You’ve met her?”
Cass leaned up to look down at him. “You did. You met with her. What was she like?”
“A normal person.”
“No crystal balls or colorful silks hanging from the ceiling.”
“I think you’re confusing a hypnotherapist with a fortune teller.”
“Maybe. I’m willing to meet her.” But only because it was Neo making the suggestion. She trusted him like she had never trusted anyone.
He gave her that look of approval she’d become fully addicted to. “I knew you would be. We have an appointment with her tomorrow.”
“You do not think I would make you go alone, do you?”
She snuggled into him. “You’re too good to me, Neo.”
“What are friends for?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never had one like you.”
“Hypnotism is…I don’t know.”
“And a little scary,” he suggested.
“I’m afraid of enough in my life.” She didn’t want to be afraid of this, too.
“But the idea of being hypnotized is overwhelming.”
“Do you want me to stay through the session?”
And he did, sitting in the corner, a solid presence that made her feel safe enough to answer all the hypnotherapist’s questions honestly and then relax as much as she was capable during the hypnotherapy.
A month later, Cass and Neo shared a table at the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. She had always wanted to come, but had not been able to deal with the thought of the crowds, much less being trapped in a restaurant that could only be reached or exited via a very long elevator ride.
Happiness bubbled inside her like delicious French champagne. The real thing.
“Lark says there is so much trauma mixed in with my public performing, it could be months or years before it’s completely redirected.”
“That is all right. Performing is not something you ever have to do again.”
Cass’s joy just increased with Neo’s words. It was official, she was hopelessly, irrevocably in love with the billionaire Greek tycoon. Her Chinese scholar pen pal agreed, as did several of her online friends. The only one who didn’t know and probably wouldn’t agree was Neo himself.
She didn’t let that thought hamper her current pleasure. “I know, but I love being able to do this.”
“It is a joy to see you so happy.”
She laughed. “You convinced me that you would never have grown tired of our friendship regardless of my limitations. You don’t know how special that is.”
“What was to grow tired of? We went piano shopping. And to Napa Valley.”
“Yes, we did.” And he was taking her to Dubai for the grand opening of his complex. His contractor had come through and Neo had told Cass he wanted to wait to go until she could go with him…comfortably.
Was it any wonder hope that he might feel something for her besides friendship sprang eternal in her heart. Some days, she was even convinced he would welcome her words of love, but she always chickened out at the last minute.
“And now you will accompany me to that charity event,” he said.
“Tell me again why you are going to a five-hundred-dollar-a-plate dinner to raise money for pet neutering? You don’t even have a dog.”
“And I don’t plan on getting one, but lots of business gets done at dinners like this.”
“Just like the golf course.”
“A tedious game, but one in which I am more than proficient.”
She shook her head. “Anything for business, hmm?”
“Perhaps that is why your friendship is so special to me. It is for me and me alone. Not the business. Not the next deal.”